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How Exclusivity Can Be Big for Athletes in Social Media (Part 1)

There’s no doubt that in the last year, social media has exploded in the sports industry, with superstars from different sports joining platforms like Twitter and Facebook to interact with their fans. However, there has almost been as much negative noise about athletes using social media as there has been positive.

Although it may seem like a beat up topic for some, social media, especially in sports is still a fairly new phenomenon. PR crews do the best they can to educate and teach, but Twitter and Facebook were made to encourage open sharing for common-folk, not basketball all stars with paparazzi waiting to analyze their every character and Twitpic.

Simply put, it can be extremely hard for a professional athlete to fully grasp what should or not be said online, even with professional PR aid on the side. Athletes are passionate and emotional, and that’s what makes sports so interesting, but there are grey lines that ought not to be crossed, especially when an athlete is venting and just wants to be heard. I’m not trying to discourage authenticity, but as an athlete, (aka public figure) there are certain rules to play by (ie. – explicit swearing is generally a no-no).

This is where I believe social networks that promote exclusivity can help. Path is a brand new social network hot off the press that allows users to share photos with up to 50 friends. They don’t allow connections to other networks, and pride themselves on creating a community where members are allowed to share honestly and personally. An athlete could use Path as an outlet to add their inner circles and get their online social fix to share openly and freely without having to worry about being politically correct or doing something that may affect their image, while leaving their Twitter and Facebook pages available as engagement tools. Let’s just say Michael Beasley sure could have used Path to show off his new tats.

The revamped Facebook groups is another tool that encourages small, tight knit groups. As of right now, Path has plenty of limitations with no commenting and only allows pictures to be posted through their iPhone app. Facebook groups is a full fledged group network with commenting, photos, link sharing, and email notifications. In a private Facebook group with all his buddies, Charlie Villanueva could talk about fighting Kevin Garnett all he wants in any language he wants without looking like an immature attention seeker.

In part two, I’ll talk more about other creative ways to using ‘exclusivity’ to enhance an athlete’s brand.

What do you think of athletes having their own ‘space’ online like Path and Facebook Groups? Will it help in providing less PR headaches? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.


Image by keithallison

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7 Responses to How Exclusivity Can Be Big for Athletes in Social Media (Part 1)

  1. SportsWebMedia November 15, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    As much as I feel platforms like Path can protect the athlete in certain situations, due to the 50 ‘friend’ limit, they will still be missing out on fan engagement opportunities. They will then have to rely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to continue their online presence to the masses, which is where lies the value of social media use, and the potential banana skins.

    I feel the only way athletes can really get the best out of social media is through education. Being taught best practice, being mentored, using their heads – whatever you want to call it – will define their success in social media. It is no different to heading a business presence online. You only get out what you put it.

    Luckily for sports stars, the hard work – gaining the public’s attention – has already been done. Unfortunately there are just too many slipping up on the easy downhill sections.

  2. JasonPeck November 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    If an athlete just wants to share certain thoughts/pictures with family, then Path or private Facebook groups could work. But I definitely don’t see these things as a replacement for building an audience on Twitter/Facebook. And athletes definitely need education on what to do/not to do there.

    There are other ways athletes could offer fans exclusive access (and if it’s good enough content, some people will probably pay for it). But this probably works best with a custom app or website. Interested to hear your thoughts though.

  3. johnraser November 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Using a social networking platform that only allows athletes to share with 50 friends is useless and counterproductive. I completely agree with Jason Peck. It isn’t about athletes getting their “online social fix”. It’s about sharing creative and unique content with your fans and in turn growing your audience through open engagement. Social media is about breaking down the walls of “exclusivity” by giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your life and the things that make you tick. Sure, there are some things you should keep to yourself (or a select few people), but that’s what email is for. Telling athletes to ignore their Twitter and Facebook pages and jump on board a service that keeps their content and ideas private is taking a step back, in my opinion. Do you wanna interact with a bunch of publicists and PR people? I sure don’t. That’s what it would turn into.

  4. anothersamchan November 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    @SportsWebMedia Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree that continued education is extremely important!

  5. anothersamchan November 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    @JasonPeck Hi Jason, thanks for your comment! I completely agree, I am not suggesting Facebook groups or Exclusive networks like Path will or should replace Facebook/Twitter, but rather as a supplement. We sometimes forget that pro athletes are humans too, not PR machines. For the regular joe after a bad day at work, complaining about it on social networks is quite common, but pro athletes can’t do that. Exclusive networks like Path can provide a network for those who want to give parts of their life private while still having public networks to engage with fans.

  6. anothersamchan November 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    @johnraser Hi John, thanks for your thoughts! I am hardly telling athletes to ignore their twitter, just that a private forum for them to share their own privates lives and their own thoughts so they (or you, since you are a pro athlete yourself) could live more balanced.

    “That’s what email is for” is an extremely interesting argument. Why should ‘things that should be kept to yourself and a few select people’ be limited to only email? What if Facebook decided to can its live feed because “that’s what Twitter is for”?

    I am aware for that this piece was not for everyone, but I was pointing more towards those who can’t seem to hold their tongue long enough before saying something else stupid (Hello Gil).

  7. seokiwi March 15, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Sam I think you’re brilliant mate, I totally get what you’re trying to say. I love the idea of a private Facebook group for those athletes who understand the importance of making your super fans feel special and taking regular fans and converting them into super fans by giving them this unique access. 
    This wouldn’t replace their current social media presence but simply enhance it, with very little effort. Massive power and influence comes from these top 20% so you gotta stroke em. 
    Allot of inefficiencies right now with the monetization of athaletes lists and the agents have no idea what to do, massive $$$ being left on the table in these contract negotiations and the sponsors are also being short changed by not structuring these to take advantage of the athletes social influence. 
    I think @LewisHowes would probably agree right? 

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